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Avoiding getting scammed by a snow plow contractor

SYRACUSE (WSYR-TV) - Its that time of year to hire a snow plow contractor and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Upstate New York is reminding everyone to do their homework before they hire one.

Below are tips from the BBB about hiring snow removal services: 

Look for experience. Each home or business is different, and experience does matter. Check to see if everyone who works for the company you hire has relevant experience, not just the owner. Also, be sure to ask the owner if employees or subcontractors do the work. It's also a good idea to find a company located close to your home or business. 

Ask about scheduling. Some contractors do snowplow services as a part-time job, and this may affect their availability to clear a driveway when needed. Always check to see if there is a schedule for snow removal.

Get more than one estimate. BBB recommends you get at least three estimates before making a decision. Ask for all the costs up front to avoid any surprises. Keep in mind the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best service. 

Ask about insurance. Find out what type of insurance coverage potential contractors provide, as well as homeowner’s insurance. Does your town or city require the contractor to have a permit or license? Before you hire anyone, make some calls to find out and then check to make sure the contractor is appropriately covered. 

Review the contract. Never settle for a verbal agreement. Contractors should always provide a written contract. A representative should come out to look at the property and make notes about services requested and potential obstacles. Get all of the details in writing and always read anything before you sign. Understand cancellation fees and any extra charges that may apply.  

Split the payments. Find out how the company expects payment. Most contracts take two forms: pay-per-plowing or pay-per-season. If you choose a pay-per-season contract in a light snow season, the contractor is not obligated to refund any money. If you’re expected to pay all fees upfront – consider it a red flag. Most contractors will split fees into two or three payments – one at the beginning, middle, and end of the season.

Beware of scams. Remember even if a business appears to be reliable, it does not mean it is. When a company is reluctant to answer questions, won’t supply proper information or unwilling to offer references – there could be cause for concern.

Report a scam. If you spot a business or offer that sounds like an illegal scheme or fraud, tell us about it through BBB’s Scam Tracker. BBB’s Scam Tracker provides information on trending scams in our area.  

Check with BBB. The agency provides background information, complaint history, and resolution of complaints, and customer reviews in our Business Profiles. Check out snow removal services at bbb.org.

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